Fort Riley, Kansas



Sharing painful moments helps build, strengthen community of Gold Star families

By Kalene Lozick | 1ST INF. DIV. POST | October 06, 2017

     Remembering the fallen brought emotions to Gold Star mothers and their families during a National Gold Star Mothers and Families Day event Sept. 30. The event brought together families under one roof as they remained unplugged to break bread and remember fallen Soldiers.

     The National Gold Star Mothers and Families Day commemorates “the contributions, commit­ments and sacrifices by Gold Star Mothers and Families,” according to the Senate Joint Resolution 115 June 23, 1936.

     The event was hosted by Christina Gary, Survi­vor Outreach Services program manager, and Mi­chael Schack, Survivor Outreach Services financial counselor. Gary and Schack said they hosted the event at Fort Riley’s Grimes Hall to recognize the sacrifices of those mothers who have lost a son or daughter while serving in the Armed Forces.

    The National Gold Star Mothers and Families Day began with the fallen hero stone creation. Gold Star family members decorated white stones with permanent markers with the Soldiers name and rank. Some members decorated stones with roses and hearts.

     The original plan was to place all stones in a plastic box, which would be laid at a newly planted oak tree in front of Grimes Hall. Instead, the adjusted plan invited Gold Star family members to place decorated stones on the mulch surrounding the tree. The Chinkapin oak tree is to commemorate fall­en heroes Schack said.

     “I think an oak tree is totally appropriate,” said Rebecca Arthington, retired Army, who attended the event to represent Air Force 1st Lt. Marvin S. Arthing­ton and Spc. Bradley S. Bohle, a “Big Red One” Soldier. “It’s like the mighty oak tree.”

     Chap. (Col.) Timothy Walls, garrison chaplain, dedicated the tree as the Fallen Hero Tree. In front of the oak tree is a plaque engraved with “in memory of fallen heroes.”

     During the dedication, Walls said a prayer over the tree as a symbol to those Soldiers who have fallen protecting the cause of lib­erty. He also said a prayer over the Gold Star family members to find refuge and joy within the Lord.

     After the stone place­ment and tree dedication by Walls, the SOS team provided biodegradable dove-shaped balloons to be released.

     Gold Star family mem­bers, SOS staff, Walls and Fort Riley garrison Com­mand Sgt. Maj. James Col­lins released the balloons into the air.

     As the National Gold Star Mothers and Families Day continued, the final event was a luncheon.

     The luncheon pro­vided an opportunity for Gold Star family members to speak with Fort Riley’s commanding officers about their fallen Soldier. The of­ficers included Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, 1st Infan­try Division and Fort Riley commanding general, Col. John Lawrence, Fort Riley garrison commander, and Collins.

     During this period, Gary invited all to participate in roll-call.

     To begin roll-call was Ann Meuli, mother of Sgt. Joel Murry of 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div. Her son was killed in Iraq Sept. 4, 2007.

     As those around the table shared stories of how their Soldier died in battle, eyes around the room began to fill up with tears. Many Gold Star mothers remem­bered the phone call as if it were yesterday.

     After three Gold Star family members shared sto­ries, Martin gave his grati­tude and shared his “Big Red One” career beginning in the 1980s, through his four tours of combat, of­ficer training courses and then back as a Soldier of the “Big Red One.”

     “I had some incred­ible opportunities over the course of my (“Big Red One”) career,” Martin said. “I know, especially for you all (Gold Star families), may not see combat, but it is what we do in the Army. It is the full expression of the capabilities our nation asks us to provide, to protect the homeland, to see to our na­tional security interest and I’ve had the opportunity to (do) that four separate times in combat.”

     As he continued he shift­ed gears by giving gratitude to the Soldiers, both men and women, who lost their lives serving to protect the homeland.

     “I’ll tell you like your Soldiers and the Soldiers from Desert Storm to this most recent experience, (Soldiers) never cease to amaze me,” he said. “I speak often to people — I’ll tell you this because I think it is important that you under­stand this. I’ve had people in a room from Congress … I want to tell them who we are. Some people say, I know who you are. I say you have never heard it from me.”

     During the next mo­ments, Martin described a commercial he showed to the Congressional staffers. In the commercial, Martin explained, Soldiers in the midst of a natural disaster clean up are not seeking “the limelight” or “to re­member their name.”

     “I tell you this video because it resonates with me,” he said. “That video just epitomizes our Sol­diers. They are one of 300 amongst the population of the US, (rose) their right hand to swear an allegiance and an oath to an idea. That is very unique to this world … So Soldiers are very special people … So I am very proud and hon­ored to be here. Frankly, I will tell you I am walking in the steps of giants, I am aware of that every day … One of those responsibili­ties is to continue to reach out to the people like you (Gold Star families) whose families have lost, whose families have sacrificed and are mindful for that. So it is my please to be here today and talk to you.”

     As roll-call continued, there was not a dry eye in the room. Mothers told their stories of how Soldiers on Fort Riley give hugs, sa­lute and acknowledge them.

     To one mother, Dody Berg, her son, Spc. Forrest Robertson who died Nov. 3, 2013, in Afghanistan, said while choking back tears, “he was 17 when I signed the papers and I don’t regret it because he was good at what he did.”

     As the luncheon con­cluded, the laughter began to fill the room again and smiles returned to the faces of Gold Star mothers and families.

     The overall goal of the National Gold Star Moth­ers and Families Day is to maintain and continue strong relationships with the Gold Star family mem­bers, SOS staff and the commanding officers.


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